The Quality of Legal Dictionaries: An Assessment

59 Pages Posted: 21 Oct 2008

See all articles by R. de Groot

R. de Groot

Maastricht University

Conrad van Laer

University of Maastricht

Date Written: October 21, 2008


In this article, the quality of the different bilingual legal dictionaries between the languages of the Member States of the European Union will be assessed. In order to do so, some general remarks will be made first about problems with translating legal terminology. Based on those remarks, criteria for reliable bilingual dictionaries will be formulated in the next section. Finally, these criteria will be applied on the available bilingual dictionaries containing the legal language used by one or more EU Member States. To illustrate this, we have attached an updated bibliography encompassing about 200 recently published bilingual and multilingual legal dictionaries in the European Union.

The bibliography in the Annex will be the evidence for our final conclusion that most legal dictionaries must be classified as a word list, which implies here that they are of dubious quality. To date, few legal dictionaries have attempted to meet our criteria. Dictionaries that are based on comparative legal research, on the other hand, offer advantages that render them useful to professional translators.

Keywords: bilingual legal dictionaries, reference tools, comparative legal reference, comparative law, bibliographies, European Union

JEL Classification: K10, K49, N40

Suggested Citation

de Groot, R. and van Laer, Conrad, The Quality of Legal Dictionaries: An Assessment (October 21, 2008). Available at SSRN: or

R. De Groot

Maastricht University ( email )

6200 MD Maastricht, 6200MD

Conrad Van Laer (Contact Author)

University of Maastricht ( email )

P.O. Box 616
Maastricht, Limburg 6200MD

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